Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said Thursday that the expensive Hublot watch he wore was gifted to him by an old friend — a Dubai-based cardiac surgeon, Dr Girish Chandra Varma. Reacting to the Opposition's claims that the watch was worth Rs 70 lakh, he said it costs nearly Rs 7 lakh and added that its ownership will be a part of his asset and income declarations this year before the Karnataka Lokayukta and the Income Tax Department. He said that he would declare it a state asset and deposit it with the state secretariat.
Siddaramaiah said that during his visit to Bangalore in July 2015, Dr Varma, who he claimed to have known since 1983, had removed the Hublot he was wearing and gifted it to Siddaramaiah. It is essentially a “second-hand watch” and the original would be worth around 35,000 dirhams in Dubai, he said, adding that documents regarding its purchase will be provided to authorities during declaration of assets. An affidavit regarding the watch's origin will also be provided soon to the Lokayukta, he said.
“I am not the kind of person interested in a life of leisure. My family too is not used to an easy life. This watch was gifted by an old friend, Dr Girish Chandra Varma, and I have had it for over four months,'' he said.
Reacting to the CM's statement, JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy questioned why it had taken the him over two weeks to identify the Dubai-based “friend” whose identity he had earlier claimed to have forgotten. “They have created an escape route for the CM with the story of this watch donor. How did this sudden enlightenment come when he could not recall the identity of the benefactor a few days ago,'' he said.
Dr Varma is learnt to be a Kerala native and currently a consultant cardiac surgeon at the NMC Specialty Hospital in Dubai. He obtained his MBBS degree from institutions in Karnataka in the 1980s. When contacted, staff at the NMC Hospital said he was away till Sunday. An email to the doctor remained unanswered on Thursday evening.